As the United States launches into the 2016 election season, over 20 Republican and Democratic candidates have begun to polish their campaigns for the voting public. Among them is prominent Andover alumnus and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush ’71.
At Andover, Bush captained the Varsity Tennis team and earned a spot on the honor roll. As part of Andover’s student exchange summer program, he taught English as a second language the summer before his Senior year in León, Mexico. It was there that he met his wife, Columba Garnica Gallo Bush, who would later give him a unique perspective on one of the most controversial topics of the 2016 election: immigration.
Bush has said that he supports a path to legal status – but not citizenship – for undocumented immigrants. He has also advocated the use of a wall or fence to increase border security. In opposition to most Democratic candidates, Bush also wishes to identify and deport people who violate the terms of their stay and defund sanctuary cities that house undocumented immigrants against federal law.
Shelby Butt ’16, Co-President of the PA Republicans Society and a student representative for the Jeb Bush campaign, said, “I do agree with most Republicans in that we should secure the border before we start to look for a path to citizenship or legal status… I think that [Bush] will differ in the fact that he’s had personal experience with immigration via his wife and his wife’s family. That will give him a unique ability to reach out to immigrants and think about immigrants in a very personal, humanistic way.”
“I support his path to legal status, not necessarily citizenship, but just the path to being able to legally live in the United States, whether that would be with Green Cards or anything else,” she continued.
Caroline Mesinger ’16, Vice-President of the PA Democrats Society, said, “[Bush] has great ideas for legalizing ‘illegal immigrants,’ but he doesn’t want them to become citizens… he wants everyone that comes to America to assimilate into some kind of, presumably, white culture, which I don’t agree with, which is what puts a sour note into my mouth for any kind of immigration policy because our country is founded on multiculturalism.”
Gun control has been another big issue for Bush. As the governor of Florida, he implemented the 10-20-Life Law in 2005, a mandatory minimum sentencing act regarding the use of a firearm during the commission of a forcible felony.
“I agree with Jeb Bush’s push for instant background checks when a gun is purchased, and I think his 10-20 law is a good start, but I honestly don’t think he’s doing enough. Florida, the state in which he was governor, is a very pro-gun state that’s [heavy] on allowing concealed carry, and personally, concealed carry makes me a little uncomfortable,” wrote Butt in an email to The Phillipian.
Jerry Yang ’17, a member of the Andover club for the Jeb Bush campaign, in an email to The Phillipian, added, “I don’t necessarily agree with all [of Bush’s] stances. I think the 10-20-Life Law as Florida governor was going in the right direction. I do support stricter background checks, but it’s also important to reduce the gun violence culture in America. I think the law… helps emphasize the consequence of gun violence, but [we need] stricter background checks.”
Bush is currently fourth in the Republican primary. He is polling at 7.1 percent according to HuffPost Pollster. In order to appeal to more voters and increase his poll numbers, Bush needs to display a higher level of energy, members of the PA Republicans’ Society said.
“[Bush is] a little bit more reserved as a person… He’s trying to be more energetic, and as a candidate, he does a lot of things that are important for a president to do, but charisma, in that aspect, he could improve… Just for the campaign,” said Yang.
Butt hopes that members of a predominantly liberal student body will look past Bush’s family name to his policies before making a decision on which candidate or party to support.
“It’s unfortunate that he’s an alum and he’s maybe not valued as much as maybe he should be. I think if people will be open-minded to the fact that he’s not a hardcore, far-to-the-right conservative… and they actually take the chance… to look at his actual policies, I think more and more liberals would see that he’s not so different from another middle-of-the-road liberal candidate,” she said.
The Phillipian was unable to reach the Jeb Bush campaign for a statement.